The Law Society has asked the government to clear up confusion over ongoing homebuying purchases during the coronavirus crisis as conveyancers struggle to know what to do.
A government spokesperson said yesterday that buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving house while lockdown measures are in place. Chancery Lane says it is seeking further clarity from the government and hopes official guidance will be published in the next few days.
Simon Davis, Society president, said: ‘If you are acting for someone who has exchanged contracts and has a completion date within the next few days, and you, your client and the other side are able to proceed, there is currently no government guidance to prevent you doing so. This is, of course, subject to following current guidelines in respect of public health: properties not being occupied with cases (or suspected cases of) Covid-19, occupants not being in a state of isolation, and all parties abiding to social distancing requirements.’
The next few weeks are likely to be incredibly challenging for conveyancers, who may need to cut overheads to survive the current public health crisis.
Questions about the impact of the coronavirus on conveyancing transactions prompted the Society to issue guidance last week. It continues to receive several questions from members 'but the nature of these has now changed. Many relate to the immediate issues in relation to completion where contracts have been exchanged'.
In updated advice, the Society said: ‘We understand that this is a very difficult time for you and your clients. The situation is unprecedented, and we’re becoming aware all the time of different aspects of the impact of the pandemic on those moving home and our members. The restricted movement requirements impact on many parts of a conveyancing transaction. What everyone wants to understand (and ideally control) is who bears the risk in various situations.’
Elsewhere, HM Land Registry says its business e-services, which receive the majority of all applications, are running normally. However, it said some applications will take slightly longer than its usual service standards. ‘Significant disruption’ is expected for register create and update applications.
Update 0700 27 March: The government has published advice on home moving during the emergency.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.